#TBT: 3 Ways You’re Wrong About Live Entertainment, Part III

Happy #TBT! Here’s an oldie-but-goodie post from Jim: 3 Ways You’re Wrong About Live Entertainment, Part III. (Read Part I and Part II.)

We’ve been talking about misconceptions widely held but both untrue and bad for the live entertainment business. You can go back and catch up by reading: Misconception No. 1: New Technologies are Making Actually Going Out a Thing of the Past and Misconception No. 2: Everything’s Sold Out!

Now that you’re caught up, on to …

Misconception No. 3. It’s all about concerts. I think this misconception is based primarily on high school nostalgia. Who among us didn’t wait overnight on the sidewalk for tickets to the band we worshipped when we were in 10th grade? (OK, in my case, I made my friend do it, but to be fair, we gave him some sandwiches and a thermos of tea.)

But the idea that concerts are practically synonymous with the live entertainment business is one of the most pernicious mental barriers out there to getting the business where it needs to go.

Let’s take the example of a Hannah Montana concert in a city like Los Angeles [circa 2009]. Suppose HM comes to the Staples Center for two dates. To keep the math easy, let’s say she sells 20,000 tickets each night for an average price of $100. That means she’s generating $4,000,000 in ticket sales.

That’s a great couple of days’ work, and big, big money. Good for her! Especially since she’s one of only a small handful of acts that can actually do this.

Simultaneously though, the LA Opera may be doing five shows that week, with an average house of about 2,000 and an average ticket price of more like $150. That’s probably close to 10,000 tickets for the week, with ticket sales therefore totaling $1,500,000.

Even if that’s overstating it and the opera is only taking in $1MM, stop and consider that the opera does that week in and week out throughout its season, and doesn’t need a TV show and massive advertising to get those numbers.

Or look at it this way: In a city like New York, Los Angeles or San Francisco, there are probably 200 small theaters performing a show five or six times a week. Even if they sell just 50 tickets per night on average at a price of $25, that’s over a million dollars a week in ticket sales, and unlike Hannah Montana, they’ll be in town next week, too.

These are two examples of things that get very little attention outside their committed fan base, but they are part of an extremely robust ecosystem of live entertainment of which concerts are a significant, but by no means dominant, part.

And as the sophistication in the marketing and content development of other forms of live entertainment improves, we are likely to see more and more successful live entertainment entrepreneurs like the Lucha VaVOOM folks or the people who’ve brought roller derby back.

It’s no longer a world of mega-popularity. It’s a world of niches, which means the concerts that you have to line up on the sidewalk to see, even virtually, are becoming a thing of the past. Concerts are and will increasingly be another part of the live entertainment ecosystem, but you could really get confused (and make some bad decisions) if you insist on living in the past.

Are there other misconceptions? Certainly, but these three are a good start, so it’s about time somebody mythbusted them…

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